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alumniVentures to "advance the cause of music"

Yale School of Music supports alumni projects with grants totaling $100,000

In June, 2008, Dean Robert Blocker of the Yale School of Music announced alumniVentures, a bold and innovative program that will provide $100,000 in grants to the School’s alumni. In the first year of what Dean Blocker promised to be an annual program, alumniVentures grants would be given to projects that best followed one simple but transcendent criterion: to advance the cause of music. Three hundred proposals from 329 alumni (there were several joint proposals) were submitted, including commissions, travel to support teaching and scholarship, recital performances, recording projects, and outreach. The number of responses was remarkable, considering that the Yale School of Music, a small graduate professional school, has just over three thousand alumni. On November 10, the grants were announced.

Schools providing grants to its own alumni are rare in the world of higher education. In explaining the inspiration for alumniVentures, Dean Blocker said, “Since coming to Yale in 1995 I have been inspired by the many ways our alumni advance the cause of music. Knowing how many musicians sacrifice financial security because of their passion for music, I wanted to assist and acknowledge some of these extraordinary contributions to our art.  The program I envisioned was one where we could reconnect alumni to the School through their work as musicians and assist them by using part of the annual fund for these awards.”

Project applications were received from alumni throughout the world and from classes ranging from the 1940s to alumni just out of school. Deputy Dean Thomas Masse ’91 MM, ’92 AD chaired a committee that included four other alumni to review the applications and determine the winners. Joining Masse were William Funderburk, IV ’98 MM, Robert Hickok ’49 MusB, Richard Killmer ’67 MM, ’71 MMA, ’75 DMA, and Sarita Kwok ’05 MMA, ’06 AD. "The breadth, scope, originality and quality of these ventures was overwhelming,” said Masse. “As the projects began to arrive in the School of Music offices back in August, I realized that the challenges facing the committee would be significant: the process of selecting only a handful of projects from so many worthy and deserving proposals submitted by distinguished and accomplished alums would be formidable.”

In evaluating proposals,  Deputy Dean Masse asked his fellow committee members, “To what degree does the proposal satisfy the Dean’s charge ‘to advance the cause of music’? Does it do so in a relatively noble and generous way?” Masse also asked them to consider four general guidelines for assessment: mission, feasibility, artistic quality, and creativity. Ultimately there was unanimous committee endorsement for the projects that were chosen. “I think I speak for the entire committee when I state that the impression we were left with was that Yale School of Music alums are involved in some of the most dynamic, creative, and inspiring work that many of us have seen in quite a long time.”

The three $10,000 grants were awarded to:

Lars Frandsen MM ’92 to support presentations of the Prison Concert Project. Mr. Frandsen, a guitarist,  will present performances and masterclasses in 20 state prisons and rehabilitation facilities throughout California and New York, offering workshops for inmates who are guitarists and coaching prison bands for performances.

Mildred C. Rosner BM ’56, cello, and Margot D. Schwartz MM ’07, violin, to support Summer Music Berkeley (SMB), a year-round program for string players at the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, California. The award will provide additional scholarships to low-income, diverse string instrumental students who would otherwise not be able to participate. In addition, SMB will use grant money to acquire several string instruments for loan to students.

Terri Sundberg MM ’86, flute, to support her work with “Peace Through Music Uganda” and the Shropshire Foundation to work to improve the quality of life of war-affected children and teach tolerance and non-violence through music education and performance programs.

Some of the other award winners included Mark Bergman MM ’97, bass, and Nancy Jin MM ’02, violin, to support “Music for All,” their educational outreach programs in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. ; Arthur Bloom MMA ’94, composer,  to support further development of “Musicorps,” a music program in which injured soldiers use a specially-assembled computer-based workstation and traditional instruments to collaborate with visiting artists and compose and record their own music; Julia Cunningham MM ’99, harp, to support the purchase of Celtic therapy harps to use in her work as a healing volunteer at several Los Angeles hospitals; Tina Lee Hadari MM ’04, violin, and Michelle Lee MM ’03, violin, to support the educational workshops of "Music Haven," a nonprofit organization that builds long-term learning and mentoring relationships between professional musicians and at-risk youth in the four most underserved neighborhoods of New Haven; Dennis Michel MM ’77 to support the Chamber Music Professional Development Program, a fellowship program undertaken by The Chicago Chamber Musicians to nurture the development and viability of the next generation of American chamber ensembles.  Andrew Shenton MM ’93, organ, to support the development of a course and publication of a textbook entitled Music in World Religions; Jane Chung MM ’99, violin, to support the creation of a substantive body of collaborative, multi-media works with noted choreographers and for the presentation of the works with two important dance companies in the Northeast; and Joseph Rubenstein DMA ’01, composer, to support “Keys to the Future,” a non-profit organization that presents contemporary piano music in annual multi-day festivals and individual concerts in New York City.

Dean Blocker expressed enthusiasm for the quality of applications and with those chosen to receive grants. “The number of proposals and the work of the selection committee was simply incredible,” he said.  “I hope we can increase the funding allocation, and perhaps other institutions will create similar programs to benefit their graduates and enhance the role of music in our lives.”

For further information and a complete list of alumniVentures awardees and their proposals, please visit